This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Pothos plants, also popularly known as Devil’s ivy, are one of the most straightforward plants to maintain. Content with little attention, Pothos are perfect house plants for novice plant owners to seasoned gardeners.
Bringing home your new Pothos is a fabulous feeling until you notice that the little guy is starting to die – I’m here to tell you why!
Reasons why your Pothos plant is dying? The most common reasons for a dying Pothos plant include over-and under-watering, compact, overly dense soil, too much direct sunlight, inadequate temperature, low humidity, and pests like mealybugs and scale. Lastly, your Pothos may suffer from being rootbound if it has outgrown its pot.
Only water your Pothos once the soil is around 70 to 80% dry and ensure your Pothos receives at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight.
Fortunately, the Pothos will give you several virtual signs to indicate that it’s dying. The sooner you can identify the primary culprit, the more luck you’ll have to revive the plant.
With my own experience of trial and error, here are the most common reasons your Pothos is dying.
Overwatering Your Pothos Can Kill It
Without the exemption of a Pothos plant, overwatering and root rot are the primary nemeses of all plants. As hardy as the famous Pothos plant can be, “wet feet” – a combo of poor drainage and overwatering – can kill the plant in a matter of several days if left untreated.
Soggy, overly moist soil creates the perfect environment for root rot. In addition, Pothos is relatively sensitive to overwatering; the excessive water fills the tiny air pockets in the ground.
In turn, it deprives the plant’s roots of oxygen and nutrients, causing root rot and yellow or brown leaves that start to go limp.
You may also notice browning spots or water blisters forming on the leaves, foliage starting to drop, or soft and mushy roots.
In addition, when you give the Pothos more water than it can utilize, a foul odor emits from the pot when the excess water becomes stagnant.
You can correct overwatering by cutting back on your schedule and placing the Pothos in bright indirect sunlight for at least six hours.
When watering the Pothos, ensure that the soil dries out before drenching it in the water again. An effective check is to stick your finger into the ground to ensure that the top inch of soil dries out entirely before rewatering your Pothos plant.
Lastly, ensure the pot has drainage holes and create a well-draining environment for the Pothos plant by adding perlite or peat moss to boost drainage.
Symptoms of overwatering include:
- Limp Leaves
- Yellow or Browning foliage
- Leaves dropping
- A foul odor
- Soft and mushy roots
Underwatering Your Pothos Can Kill It
Dehydration from underwatering can kill your Pothos. Water is essential for the plant’s cell health, and scarcity can cause the plant to wither and eventually die.
While your Pothos may tolerate short drought periods, this hardy plant still needs water to survive. In nature, Pothos plants grow attached to trees, with root systems deep enough to absorb water from the ground. When the soil dries, it absorbs moisture from the air.
In comparison, indoor plants have nowhere to find water when their pots dry out. An underwatered plant displays stunted growth brown, wilting leaves; you may also notice the foliage turning crispy and wrinkled from dehydration.
After some time, the plant exhausts its water resources in the cell leaves, losing its foliage and dying.
When you underwater Pothos, the lack of water in the soil forces the plant to exert more effort than usual to absorb moisture from the ground. The lack of water can cause the Pothos cells to shrink, making the plant appear smaller.
It’s relatively straightforward to identify an underwatered Pothos plant by looking at the potting soil; if the ground seems parched, then underwatering is the culprit behind your Pothos plant dying.
Water your Pothos once the soil dries one inch below the surface. You can also lightly spray the Pothos plant’s leaves with a mist sprayer to boost the humidity and moisture levels.
Depending on your location, season, temperature, and humidity, your Pothos may need watering once every week or two.
However, like most other houseplants, the Pothos requires less water in the wintertime and slightly more during its growing season.
Symptoms of underwatering include:
- Parched soil
- Stunted growth
- Brown leaves
- Wilting or wrinkled foliage
Incorrect Soil Conditions Can Kill Your Pothos
Pothos plants are relatively fussy about their soil requirements, preferring a light, airy, and well-draining high-quality potting mix.
If your Pothos resides in compacted or dense soil that doesn’t drain well, the water won’t drain well, leaving it pooling around the roots and preventing oxygen from reaching the plant’s roots. In turn. the plant suffocates and dies.
Like over-or under-watering, inadequate soil can cause yellowing leaves and root rot.
Pothos plants are pretty fussy regarding the perfect soil type; they do not want highly loose, sandy soil or dense, clay-like ground. Instead, Pothos plants prefer slightly acidic, well-draining soil. So, consider using an organic potting mix or make a homemade soil mix with peat moss, perlite, crushed bark, pumice, mulch, and compost.
Symptoms of incorrect soil include:
- Water pooling around the pot
- Yellowing leaves
- Root rot
Too Much Sunlight Can Kill Your Pothos
While a Pothos plant thrives in bright indirect sunlight, it won’t enjoy the full sun – too much direct sunlight can kill the plant.
Pothos plants are native to jungles and tropical forests, shielded from the sun by an array of tree canopies. They thrive best in dappled sunlight outdoors or bright indirect sunlight indoors.
If you place your Pothos in bright direct sunlight for too long, you will notice that the foliage becomes pale and limp. You may even see the vines ceasing to produce foliage.
More so, intense direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, turning them pale yellow or light brown. The lack of chlorophyll and photosynthesis prevents the plant from producing enough energy for survival.
If your Pothos receives too much sun, move it near a window with bright to medium direct sunlight. However, ensure not to move the plant to a dark location as it won’t respond well to low-lit conditions.
While Pothos are labeled suitable for low light conditions, the designation refers to several feet away from a bright window, not a room without access to sunlight.
Too little light can cause the Pothos plant’s stems to become spruce and the foliage to lose its beautiful variegation as the plant needs to compensate for the lack of energy.
A Pothos plant will slowly struggle to sustain itself if left in these unsuitable conditions. So, move the plant to moderate lighting. An east-facing or west-facing window that receives early morning or late afternoon sun is ideal.
Symptoms of too much sunlight include:
- Pale yellow or brown leaves
- Spruce stems
- Foliage losing its variegation
Your Pothos Can Die From Incorrect Temperature
As tropical plants, Pothos prefer staying in warm temperatures ranging between 70 and 90°F.
While the plant can manage temperatures as low as 55°F, it grows best in a climate that equates to its native area (70 to 90°F). Therefore, if you keep your Pothos indoors, it typically won’t be a problem.
However, if the plant is outdoors or near an open window during cold spells, it can burst the plant’s cells, damaging your Pothos leaves and stems.
Cold damage can cause wilting, leaf drop, or black and brown foliage. If the temperature exposure lasts too long, it’s unlikely that the plant will recover. So, try to move the plant far away from icy drafts, aircon, and fans.
Symptoms of incorrect temperature include:
- Leaf drop
- Black spots on foliage
Humidity is one of the most ignored reasons your Pothos plant may be dying.
A lack of humidity can cause several problems for a moisture-loving plant like the Pothos. For example, the leaves may turn brown and wither in low-moisture climates as the foliage demands high humidity to maintain its moisture levels.
Most plants native to tropical conditions require high humidity to thrive. Fortunately, the Pothos isn’t as fussy as other houseplants; it generally prefers humidity above 50%.
Humidity is vital for transpiration; when the moisture levels are low, the plant focuses on conserving moisture by inhibiting the leaves from releasing water vapor.
Additionally, a lack of transpiration may influence photosynthesis and inhibit energy production. While this doesn’t kill your plant immediately, it dramatically impacts its growth and overall health.
Fortunately, many recommended ways exist to improve the humidity levels in your home. The first and most common suggestion is to mist the plant. Alternatively, place the Pothos plant in a tray filled with pebbles and water. However, the best solution is to keep a humidifier close to your plant.
Symptoms of low humidity include:
- Brown leaves
- Foliage withering
- Cracked leaves
A Too Small Container Can Kill Your Pothos
While Pothos aren’t famous for their extensive root systems that require large containers, they occasionally need repotting as the roots gradually grow and fill the pot.
As the roots continue to grow, they twist and wrap around each other, forming a thick web of roots that fill the container and lose their ability to absorb nutrients and water effectively.
Without these essentials, the plant cannot survive. Therefore, leaving your plant in the same container for several years can cause it to become rootbound.
If the pot is too small, you’ll start to notice that the Pothos roots are growing out from the container’s drainage holes or out of the soil. More so, it can produce excessively long stems that may even cause the pot to fall over. Other symptoms involve stunted growth or wilting leaves.
If a too-small container is an issue, consider repotting the plant into a new pot size or two bigger than the previous one. Ensure that you detangle the roots well before repotting the plant, encouraging the roots to establish well into the new soil.
Symptoms of a too-small container include:
- Roots protruding from the drainage holes
- Excessively long stems
- Stunted growth
- Wilting leaves
Your Pothos Can Die From Pests
Pests are the problem that everyone dreads! While Pothos are highly susceptible to pests, two specific pests can cause havoc – scale and mealybugs.
The tiny critters attach themselves to the stems and leaves of the Pothos plant and feed on the plant sap, robbing the plant of all its moisture and nutrients.
You can identify scale by brown or black tiny lumps with hard shells, and the mealybugs look like fuzzy white spots. Mealybugs secrete a sticky substance while feeding on your Pothos which encourages mold.
While several tiny pests may not cause a massive issue, these little critters multiply and can completely take over your whole plant if left for extended periods.
Due to the lack of nutrients and moisture, the stems and leaves become distorted, and the plant will die over time. In addition, mold accumulation will prevent the Pothos from receiving sufficient sunlight, eventually causing the plant to die.
To get rid of scale or mealybugs, consider wiping the leaves with a damp cloth or spraying the foliage with rubbing alcohol or diluted neem oil to kill the remaining insects.
Another horrid disease that might affect your Pothos is botrytis; this mainly occurs in wet, cooler temperatures. Botrytis appears in mushy gray spots in the stems and foliage. The best way to remove botrytis is to prune the affected parts and bin them.
Symptoms of pests include:
- Brown or black tiny bugs with hard shells
- Fuzzy white spots
- Mushy, gray spots
Here are several FAQs to help you out a bit more.
How Long Do Pothos Plants Live?
Pothos plants can generally live between five to ten years if you place them in an ideal environment. So, you’ll want to keep an eye out for pests or diseases that can shorten its plant’s life, like scale or mealybugs.
In addition, ensure that you provide the appropriate water, soil, temperature, light, and humidity conditions.
What Are The Plant Signs For An Overwatered Pothos?
An overwatered Pothos plant will turn yellow, and the leaves later brown. More so, the foliage turns soft and limp and can show signs of water blisters and brown spots.
The Pothos plant will also start to smell from the stagnant water in the pot. Lastly, root rot is an indication that you’re overwatering the plant.
What Are The Plant Signs For An Underwatered Pothos?
An underwatered Pothos plant may appear thinner and smaller due to dehydration. More so, the Pothos plant’s leaves will feel crisp and dry and may wilt or have a wrinkled appearance.
The leaves can also brown from underwatering, and the soil will appear dry.
Is A Pothos Plant Sensitive To Temperatures?
Pothos plants grow best in a climate with temperatures similar to their native area. They can survive in temperatures ranging between 55 and 85°F. However, for a healthy Pothos with speedy growth, please keep it in temperatures of 70 and 90°F.
You’ll want to avoid exposing the Pothos to temperatures below 55°F
Can I Place My Pothos In Direct Sunlight?
Pothos do not tolerate bright, direct sunlight very well. The direct sun typically burns and damages the foliage; it may even kill your Pothos.
Additionally, variegated parts of the Pothos are more susceptible to sun damage than the green leaves due to chlorophyll shortage.
Once the leaves burn and turn brown, you can’t revive them by placing the plant in lower light. Instead, remove the damaged leaves and place the plant in an east- or west-facing window to help restore the rest of the Pothos plant.
Can My Pothos plant’s Brown Leaves Recover?
A Pothos plant’s leaves primarily turn yellow, then brown from underlying causes like overwatering or underwatering. It’s unlikely that its moisture-stress foliage will turn green again.
However, you can remove the damages and focus on improving the watering schedule to prevent further damage.
Why Is My Pothos Dying Conclusion
Now that you have an idea of the most prevalent reasons causing your Pothos to die, you can jump right into helping this little fellow to keep its exotic foliage bright and healthy.
Fortunately, Pothos plants are hardy houseplants and generally recover with swift, proper care, and treatments.